Whether you’re about to finish secondary school and in need of an entry-level position, or you’re in search of an alternative to university, there is an apprenticeship out there for you

Intermediate (level 2)

Intermediate (or level 2) apprenticeships are designed to cover entry-level roles and provide the basic skills and knowledge required to begin a career. If you’re aged 16, they represent the ideal opportunity for you to embark on further training outside of the classroom. Typically over a 12-month period, you’ll work toward obtaining qualifications equivalent to GCSEs, usually in the form of a diploma relevant to the area you’re working in.

Entry requirements will vary from one or more GCSEs to no formal qualifications or experience, and employers are encouraged to make their apprenticeships as accessible as possible, so relevant experience and skills will be considered. On completion of an intermediate apprenticeship, you’ll be able to seek advancement at your current employer, undertake an advanced qualification at your current employer or elsewhere, or move into further education at a higher level than when you left school.

Some of the intermediate apprenticeships on offer, across sectors such as agriculture, environmental, animal care, construction, business, administration, vehicles, transport, engineering, manufacturing, healthcare, science and hospitality.

Advanced (level 3)

Advanced (or level 3) apprenticeships are the next step on the apprenticeship ladder, offering an alternative to A-levels, with which they’re considered equivalent, and are suitable if you have skills, experience or qualifications in a sector already and are looking to progress. Typically over an 18-month to 24-month period, you’ll delve into technical detail and gain expertise in your chosen sector.

Entry requirements are stricter for advanced apprenticeships, with many often requiring up to five GCSEs, including maths and English. At this level and depending on the apprenticeship, you may achieve professional recognition upon completion by the relevant professional organisation or institute.

Higher (level 4, 5, 6 or 7)

Higher or (level 4, 5, 6 or 7) apprenticeships are designed to offer degree-equivalent qualifications and experience while doing the job. They typically take between 12 and 60 months to complete, with a significant proportion of that time spent with a training provider, college or university, to develop knowledge and skills.

Employers offering higher apprenticeships will usually expect some form of previous experience or subject knowledge.

The entry requirements are tough, with five GCSEs and level 3 qualifications such as A-levels tending to be prerequisites to entry. As ever, equivalent experience is acceptable, and higher apprenticeships tend to be the level at which those already in work or leaving higher education such as university will apply, so expect competition to be that much more intense.

Degree apprenticeships

A degree apprenticeship is similar to a higher apprenticeship, but apprentices will also work toward a bachelor’s degree at level 6 or a master’s degree at level 7.

Degree apprenticeships are a popular alternative to the traditional route of obtaining a degree directly from a university, because the employer will cover the cost. Going to university to study a three-year bachelor’s degree as an individual student, for example, will set you back thousands of pounds. Degree apprenticeships are entirely funded by the employer. As an apprentice, you’ll also be paid a salary while you study, and be entitled to holiday.

Where degree apprenticeships and traditional degrees differ is the method of learning. Work placements will often come in the final year of a degree, with studying on campus taking up the majority of your time.

On a degree apprenticeship, you’ll mix learning with working, so you’ll split your time between a training provider, increasingly one of England’s many universities, and an employer, meaning you’ll be able to put your knowledge and skills into immediate practice, and take away those burning questions that you want to pose to your teachers.

Degree apprenticeships are still relatively new, but employers, higher education providers such as universities, and professional bodies are waking up to their potential, with dozens now available in England. These apprenticeships range from aerospace software development engineer apprenticeships to diagnostic radiographer apprenticeships; from psychological wellbeing practitioner apprenticeships to senior leader apprenticeships.

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